In India, more than 4 million people are estimated to be suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and each of them may have one or more caregivers.
A caregiver is a friend or relative who provides unpaid care for someone with a chronic or disabling condition like dementia and usually are an aging spouse, children, or siblings.
Caregiving is associated with personal satisfaction in helping a loved one. However, most caregivers feel unprepared to provide care. Caregivers report having less time to spend with the rest of the family and friends. They may have financial stress, because of their caregiving expenses.
They also are less likely to find time for regular health check ups for themselves. Caregivers with high stress levels are at risk of many serious medical problems.
Caregiving is also hard because you often see many changes in your loved one. These changes include:
You may have a hard time thinking of the person in the same way that you did before he or she became ill.
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Yes. It’s normal for you to have many different feelings about your role as a caregiver. At times, you may feel scared, sad, lonely, or unappreciated. You may feel angry and frustrated. You may feel guilty or feel that life isn’t fair. All of these feelings are normal.
It’s normal to have a lot of conflicting feelings. It’s not normal for these feelings to last for a long time or to disrupt your life. Studies show that caregivers are much more likely than non-caregivers to suffer from health problems. These could include stress overload, depression, anxiety, and other issues.
Signs of stress overload in a caregiver:
Signs of depression
Taking care of yourself: Learn to tell whether your feelings are normal, or are signs of too much stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, there are things you can do.
Talk to your doctor or your family member’s doctor: Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about how you’re feeling. Talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms. He or she can recommend coping methods, support groups, counselling, or medicine to help you feel better.
Talk to your loved ones and your family: You may feel that you shouldn’t burden people with your feelings, but talking about the illness and how you feel can help you relieve stress. Talk with your family members, or friends who can provide support.
Take care of your health: Have regular health check-ups even if not unwell.
Educate yourself about your loved one’s medical condition: Find out all you can about the condition your loved one has, the treatment he or she is going through, and its side effects. Being informed can give you a sense of control. Your loved one’s doctor, support groups, and the internet are good resources for more information.
Stay organized: A caregiver has a full-time job. You may be doing it on top of other responsibilities. Make a schedule with your family. This will help all of you stay organized and will help you manage the demands on your time. Don’t forget to schedule time for things you enjoy. There is no guilt in that. These could include visiting with friends or going out to dinner or a movie.
Look for help in your community: Community services provide different kinds of help. These include meal delivery, transportation, and legal or financial help. They also include home health care services such as physical therapy, nursing, or respite care for you.
Join a support group: Support groups allow you to share your feelings and experiences with other people going through similar situations. Your doctor can suggest local support groups, or you can do an online search for groups near you.
Seek counselling: Recognizing that you need help takes strength and courage. Your doctor can address or can refer you to a therapist who specializes in the kind of counselling you need.